Spyborgs Review

Spyborgs serves up competent two-player cooperative action on a nice-looking platter, but the dish is bland and unappetizing.

When an elite team of cyborg agents takes on a nefarious villain and his army of mechanical goons, there are going to be some serious robot casualties. In Spyborgs, you rack up the robotic death count by battling through hordes of enemies with your cybernetically enhanced arsenal. Though the two-player cooperative action moves at a brisk pace, your enemies aren't very diverse and your moveset is limited. You'll soon get the sense that you've done it all before, and the recommended difficulty is so steep that you actually will be doing it all over and over again. The varied environments help liven things up a little, but the story is standard Saturday-morning boilerplate that fails to add anything of interest. Spyborgs' delivers a good amount of beat-'em-up action, but it is largely devoid of flair or fun.

The game begins with an enemy incursion at the Spyborgs' HQ. Repelling the invaders sends the Spyborgs on a predictable quest to investigate strange disappearances and thwart a former ally gone bad. At the outset of the first level (and every level thereafter), you choose two of the three playable Spyborgs: Clandestine is a nimble ninja, Bouncer is a robotic bruiser, and Stinger is a soldier with a minigun for an arm. Each character varies in attack speed and strength, and there are notable differences to how they play. Bouncer is good for players who like to set their feet and pummel away, while Clandestine suits those partial to speedy strikes. Stinger is the only character with a projectile attack, which gives him an advantage over his cohorts, but each character also has distinct disadvantages. Aiming Stinger's gun with the analog stick is finicky, so it may not be as effective as you'd like. Spotting Clandestine amid a crowd of enemies can be tough, so you may not know you're taking damage until it's too late. And Bouncer's slow attacks leave you vulnerable to quicker enemies. Each of these drawbacks counterbalances the Spyborgs' strengths in an inelegant way, leaving you with the impression that something isn't quite right. Though it requires some skill to manage Stinger's oversensitive gun controls, it feels less like a legitimate challenge and more like flawed controls.

Despite these drawbacks, combat is straightforward and competent. You have light and heavy attacks that can be chained together for a few different combos, and you'll need to make use of these to knock your opponents back and finish them off quickly. As you punch, kick, and blast your way through your opponents, you gain a multiplier for each hit you or your teammate land. Running up a high multiplier earns you big experience rewards, which can then be put toward upgrades for each of the Spyborgs. It's fun to destroy an enemy and then dash across the screen to take on another one and maintain your multiplier. Vanquished foes explode in a shower of sparks that refill your power gauge. When this gauge is full, you can trigger a slow-motion finisher sequence in which you and your teammate flat-out destroy a single enemy in one attack. If two players are alive, time slows down and the background turns a washed-out blue as you each perform a prompted gesture to bash your target into oblivion. If only one player is alive, a small prompt appears briefly onscreen, allowing you to perform a powerful area attack. These moves are fun punctuations to the regular flow of combat, and though the animations become repetitive, they can be massively helpful during tough encounters.

Big bad bosses occasionally spice things up.
Big bad bosses occasionally spice things up.

Usually these motions are easy to perform, but sometimes the prompts appear for an impossibly small window of time, dooming you to fail. These finishing moves are a vital part of your arsenal because your enemies swarm with such enthusiasm that even early levels are tough. You will likely die often on the recommended difficulty level, and you need to master blocking and dodging if you hope to survive. The former is as easy as holding the Z button, while the latter requires that you hold Z, move the analog stick, and tap the A button simultaneously. This maneuver is essential to your survival, but the controls are needlessly complicated and sometimes don't respond at all. The camera can also cause some combat issues. It generally displays the action from the side, not giving you much in the way of aerial perspective. When you are surrounded by enemies, it can be hard to tell if you are taking damage or, even worse, if your hits are actually landing. Your computer-controlled teammate is a solid fighter and is good at staying alive, and you can switch between characters on the fly to maximize your attack potential. Still, the friendly AI has a few annoying habits. It loves to help out by attacking the guy you are attacking, but this often interrupts your combo and causes your most powerful hit to miss. And if you're trying to pick off foes from a distance with Stinger's gun, be prepared to have the AI block a lot of your shots. Taking the difficulty down a notch relieves some of the frustration these issues cause, but that also makes it easier to notice that the action is repetitive.

Fortunately, Spyborgs is a good-looking game that offers a hearty amount of visual variety. The various environments you traverse are brightly colored and detailed, and they are littered with crates that boost your health, experience, or power gauge. There are also hidden items throughout the world that are visible only as a hazy shimmer. You reveal these items by pointing at them, pressing the A button, and then flipping the remote upward. This mechanic is an agreeable use of motion controls, one that is bundled with a nice incentive and isn't too obtrusive or repetitive. The appealing visuals extend to the few different enemy types you encounter throughout the game, who get a nice face-lift from time to time. Even an evil tentacle-armed robot assassin looks good in a tuxedo.

The campaign is a good length, and bonus videos, in-game medals, and other unlockables add to the amount of content, making for a pretty robust package. There is plenty of solid beat-'em-up action for you to sink your teeth into, and it is best enjoyed with a friend. But even if you've got a buddy by your side, Spyborgs has enough shortcomings and blemishes to make you think twice. It offers mild satisfaction with a side of frustration, and it doesn't have enough compelling flavor or engaging spice to earn it a solid recommendation.

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    The Good
    Solid beat-'em-up action
    Sparse motion controls are well implemented
    Appealing visuals
    The Bad
    Demanding default difficulty
    Camera and control issues
    Poor enemy variety
    Limited moveset isn't very satisfying
    Dull story
    About GameSpot's Reviews

    About the Author

    Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

    Spyborgs More Info

  • First Released Sep 22, 2009
    • Wii
    In Spyborgs, players select two of the three Spyborg characters and battle their way through hordes of robotic enemies.
    Average Rating57 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Bionic Games
    Published by:
    Action, 2D, Beat-'Em-Up
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language